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Houston's most important hotel? This swank property overcame big doubts to change the city

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The Hilton Americas-Houston reaches a milestone 10th anniversary this month and has plenty of history to show for it. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
George R. Brown Convention Center, 25th Anniversary, September 2012, Former mayors Lee P. Brown and Bob Lanier shake at grand opening of Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel,GRB Expansion, 2003
Former Mayors Lee Brown, left, and Bob Lanier shake hands at the grand opening of the Hilton-Americas Houston in 2003. Courtesy of Photo courtesy George R. Brown Convention Center
392 113 venue with table settings place settings in the Hilton Americas ballroom at Houston Methodist's Rendezvous in Blue Gala November 2013
Since opening, the Hilton Americas-Houston has hosted more than 500 fundraising events including Houston Methodist's Rendezvous in Blue. Photo courtesy of CarsonPhotos.com
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The sleek lobby of the Hilton Americas-Houston features chandeliers reminiscent of Dale Chahouli's work. Courtesy of Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
Hilton Americas-Houston anniversary celebration December 2013 Hilton GRB expansion opening ceremony 2003
The crowds turned out for the Hilton-George R. Brown expansion opening ceremony in 2003. Courtesy photo
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George R. Brown Convention Center, 25th Anniversary, September 2012, Former mayors Lee P. Brown and Bob Lanier shake at grand opening of Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel,GRB Expansion, 2003
392 113 venue with table settings place settings in the Hilton Americas ballroom at Houston Methodist's Rendezvous in Blue Gala November 2013
Places-Hotels/Spas-Hilton Americas-Houston-rotunda
Hilton Americas-Houston anniversary celebration December 2013 Hilton GRB expansion opening ceremony 2003

It's a resounding success story that naysayers cried would never materialize — the city's investment in the Hilton Americas-Houston.

Case in point, the convention hotel, which this month marks its 10th anniversary, has pumped more than $27 million in hotel occupancy taxes into city coffers. The hotel has consistently paid off its share of the bonds issued by the city to finance its construction and, according to Houston First Corp., has returned an extra $23 million to the city. Along with that, there's been a whole lot of fun taking place in the 1,200-room hotel.

Since the doors opened on the Hilton Americas-Houston in December 2003, the swank downtown property has been the location for nearly 6,000 catered events including 500 charitable fundraisers that have garnered millions for the city's non-profits. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation Winter Ball has been one of the annual spectaculars taking over the 40,000 square foot ballroom as has the Memorial Hermann Foundation black-tie gala, which each year raises millions of dollars.

T he biggest news for Houstonians is that construction is underway for a Pappasito's Cantina in the space formerly occupied by Spencer's Steaks and Chops

At last year's Helping a Hero dinner, former President George W. Bush was honored on the evening that drew a crowd of 2,300 to the ballroom and raised a whopping $3 million.

As the hotel moves into its second decade, it is interesting to reflect on that first 10 years that began when former Houston mayors Lee Brown and Bob Lanier oversaw opening ceremonies. The property has since been the host hotel for the Super Bowl as well as the Major League Baseball and NBA All-Star Games. Microsoft, the American Wind Energy Association, Meeting Professionals Inc. and the like have chosen it as convention headquarters. 

The hotel has played host to numerous celebrities including Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Ashley Judd, Patti LaBelle, James Earl Jones, Carrie Fisher, Frankie Valli, Gloria Gaynor and Al Jarreau. And it has been the location of choice for several million-dollar weddings for Indian and Pakistani Houston residents.

Construction of the Hilton allowed for expansion of the George R. Brown Convention Center and thus generated the need for another convention hotel — the Marriott Marquis with construction expected to begin in April 2015.

But perhaps the biggest news for Houstonians is that construction is underway for a Pappasito's Cantina in the space formerly occupied by Spencer's Steaks and Chops in the hotel. Scheduled to open in April, the new eatery will feature an indoor-outdoor bar and patio seating overlooking Crawford Street on the building’s west side.

In a prepared statement, Houston First president CEO Dawn Ullrich noted, “The Hilton’s appeal is the same as it was in 2003 — world-class quality and an irreplaceable location next to the convention center in a city with one of the strongest economies in the nation. This hotel has proven itself as a strong performer and earned its outstanding reputation since the day the doors opened.”

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